Playing with abandonment means more than records to Ronnie O’Sullivan
Ronnie O’Sullivan took just 609 seconds to complete an 18-8 victory over Kyren Wilson and seal a sixth world snooker title but insisted he is not driven by the prospect of going on to match Stephen Hendry’s record of seven.
O’Sullivan fired a break of 96 to claim the single frame he required at the start of the evening session after a streak of seven in the afternoon saw him rise from a potential predicament at 10-8 and complete the most one-sided final win since his 2008 triumph over Ali Carter.
His sixth title moved the 44-year-old level with Steve Davis and Ray Reardon but O’Sullivan, who pocketed a winner’s cheque for £500,000, insisted: “I’m not out there to break records and stuff like that.
“I think if I wanted to break records I probably wouldn’t play as well as I do. I think you need to play with as much abandonment as you can and I think that means not putting too much meaning into records.
“If I start looking at that trophy for meaning and the history that’s in it, I’d probably freeze. I think my greatest asset is that I can look like I’m in a practice match down at the club when I’m playing at the Crucible.”
Having cut a forlorn and frustrated figure through most of Saturday’s opening two sessions, O’Sullivan appeared to belatedly rediscover the cue action that has obsessed him through this Championship – until the final black which he horribly miscued on the cusp of providing the spectators with a century to savour.
As he lifted the title for a sixth time, there was a touch of irony in the fact that having fashioned his campaign in front of empty seats, his dominant finish deprived those who had been granted a reprieve any more than the most perfunctory of coronations.
In truth it was not a final befitting a tournament which must go down as one of the most dramatic on record, culminating in a pair of last-frame semi-finals from which it sporadically seemed both winners had emerged battered and on occasions, spent.
O’Sullivan added: “I found my cue action at 10 o’clock this morning on the practice table, which gave me the confidence to go in and play aggressively. He came out first and banged a long red in and I knew it was up to me to turn the tide.
“I had to get more aggressive and make something happen, which I did. I played some solid snooker this afternoon. The table wasn’t easy, and I had to use my experience and my creativity, and that suits my game really.”
But the final scoreline did scant justice to Wilson, who frequently looked the most composed player through Saturday’s sessions, even when he fell 8-2 behind, and too often let himself down with simple missed pots and bad shot choices.
The 28-year-old will especially rue the red along the cushion that could have left him a solitary frame adrift overnight, and the pink to the middle that could have dragged him back to 10-9 having eased through the opening frame of the day.
Wilson’s composed 73 proposed bad omens for O’Sullivan, who appeared unfocused and unhappy during much of Saturday, but it soon became clear that the favourite was much more settled, and ready to make his under-pressure opponent pay.
Wilson’s missed pink maintained a painful pattern which would persist throughout O’Sullivan’s seven-frame streak in the afternoon. With the kicks and bad bounces that marred much of Saturday’s play all but absent, he eased into the mid-session interval 13-8 in front.
The interval did little to improve the outlook for Wilson, who had been the last player to enter this year’s tournament following the unprecedented decision by his first round opponent Anthony Hamilton to withdraw from the tournament due to coronavirus concerns.
He came off worse in a safety exchange and O’Sullivan clinically cleaned up to green with a break of 60, then after back-to-back breaks of 71 and 72 by his opponent, Wilson’s eagerness to end the nightmare got the better of him as he mistakenly believed it was the end of the session.
Instead, there was one more frame in which O’Sullivan could extend the agony, leaving him with the simplest of tasks to confirm the title when they returned for the evening session – and doing so in style despite his hiccup on the final black.
Wilson told the BBC: “I’m a fighter. I’ll always be a fighter. I really struggled in the first session – I think we probably both had a little bit of a hangover from the semi-finals and then I thought I’d relax, get the shackles off and go for it.
“But, at the end of the day, the night belongs to Ronnie. He was amazing throughout the final. He showed his class when he probably wasn’t quite at his best and still stuck it out.”